Courtland Club’s Sun Ra Weekend Starts Today
Friday night's opening party will feature an all-vinyl music marathon at Courtland Club, followed by Saturday night's film screenings at the Columbus Theatre and Sunday's concert headlined by the Sun Ra Arkestra.
Sun Ra Weekend involves several nights of celebration in honor of Marshall Allen’s ninety-ninth birthday and the 109th anniversary of Sun Ra’s arrival on earth. The opening party takes place at Courtland Club in Providence on Friday, May 19, featuring an all-vinyl lineup, followed by a double feature of the Sun Ra on Film screening of Space in the Place and A Joyful Noise on Sat., May 20 at the Columbus Theatre. Following the film screenings, back at the Club, there will be a deejay set by Edan, who laces hip hop with a psychedelic influence. Finally, Sun., May 21 marks the concert at the Met, headlined by the Sun Ra Arkestra with support by Shabazz Palaces and the Leland Baker Quintet.
It’s a really big deal because this will be the first, and possibly only, time that the Sun Ra Arkestra and Shabazz Palaces will perform together, and this concert also marks the first time that Courtland Club will take its Sunday Jazz programming off-site, bringing its craft cocktail and food service along with it. Both artists are currently featured in the exhibition “Afrofuturism: A History of Black Futures” at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. Sun Ra is considered a founding figure of the movement. The show will be opened by local jazz stalwarts the Leland Baker Quintet, which is the featured act at Courtland Club’s popular Sunday Live Jazz series. Baker was also named Music Education Manager by the Newport Festivals Foundation.
Now for a little background on the Sun Ra Arkestra: Sun Ra arrived on earth in late May of 1914 as Herman Blount in Birmingham, Alabama, but Sun Ra claimed not to be a man, or from earth, so this date marks Sun Ra’s arrival on earth. Marshall Allen joined the Sun Ra Arkestra as a saxophonist in the late fifties, and when Sun Ra died in 1993, Allen took over as the band’s leader. He also plays the flute, piccolo, oboe and an electronic instrument called the EWI. He will turn ninety-nine years old on May 25, which also happens to be 109 years since Sun Ra’s arrival on earth. This date is celebrated by fans and scholars as an anniversary rather than a birthday.
Shabazz Palaces is led by Ishmael Butler, also known for his founding and leadership of Grammy-winning trio Digable Planets. Butler cites Sun Ra as an influence and many journalists have drawn a correlation between the two artists in print. Shabazz Palaces has released albums through Sub Pop and Third Man Records.
Long live the live jazz bar at Courtland Club, which opened in 2017. On Sunday evenings, sit back and relax to local acts like the Leland Baker Quartet and live deejay sets to lounge to on most other nights. Courtland Club is a bar with no sign, down a nondescript side street on the West End of Providence. Just turn the knob and find out if you’re in the right place, but you’ll already know since the lively patio gives it away. The beverage team serves some of the most innovative cocktails around using high-end spirits, housemade syrups and liqueurs, fresh-squeezed juices and just picked herbs from the garden, all served in beautiful glassware. Try the Zodiac cocktail of the month. Although it’s still considered a hidden gem, the former bakery-turned-social-club-turned-gathering-spot is welcoming to “all genders, races, ethnicities, religions and personal identities.” Guests can become members and gain privileges like access to lockers for securing special bottles, monthly perks and exclusive invitations. Go for a full meal of a wedge salad and stuffed clams, housemade margherita and special pizzas of the week or housemade pastas, and of course, don’t skip snacking on treats from the kitchen like Peking-style wings and irresistible cast-iron cookies.
51 Courtland St., Providence, 227-9300, courtlandclub.com